Country-wide strike leaves industry ‘almost at a standstill’
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Country-wide strike leaves industry ‘almost at a standstill’

Photo by Belga.

A national strike across all of Belgium this morning has affected multiple sectors in the country, including manufacturing, which one union president said has been nearly brought to a standstill as a result of the collective action.

The strike comes as a result of the breakdown of talks between unions and employers to decide on the pay raises workers can expect over the next two years.

The manufacturing industry is “almost at a standstill” in Wallonia and Brussels, according to the FGTB union’s president Thierry Bodson, while public transport is severely disrupted.

The union said that some supermarkets had also stopped working.

Public transit has been widely affected by the strike, as well.

“The national trade union strike is still causing a lot of hindrances, although the situation has improved slightly,” tweeted De Lijn.

The national trade union strike is still causing a lot of hindrances. Although the situation has improved slightly. On average, one-third of all vehicles in the whole of Flanders are on the road.

Large companies like Audi Brussels, steel manufacturing company ArcelorMittal and Volvo Trucks in Ghent, and Coca Cola in Antwerp are participating in the strike, which has been planned for some time now.

“This shows that we are not living on another planet, that we represent the world of work and that we are in the right,” said Bodson. “The employers’ world must review its positions.”

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For their point, employers don’t seem to be budging. They point to the strike’s timing as inappropriate given the global pandemic.

“Have you ever known a single country to go on strike during the coronavirus crisis?” Pieter Timmermans of employers’ organisation VBO told VRT. “Who benefits from this strike? Nobody.”

Another employers’ organisation, Voka, echoed a similar sentiment in a call for employees to not participate in the strike.

“In this, the biggest crisis in generations, every avoidable economic damage by a strike feels like a dagger in the back. To strike now is to crush prosperity altogether,” the organisation said.

Some employees of the Pfizer vaccine plant in Puurs will strike, but workers at BPost have said they will not, as have workers at the country’s vaccination centres.

Belgium’s Federal Minister of Labor, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, hopes to broker peace between the parties.

“We will do everything as a government to find a solution between the social partners,” said Dermagne.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times

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